Jan 26, 2021 - Sports

The pandemic has cost the NCAA $600 million

Data: NCAA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: NCAA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The pandemic fueled a roughly $600 million plunge in NCAA revenue this past fiscal year (Aug. 31, 2019–Aug. 31, 2020), according to financial statements.

By the numbers: In 2019, the NCAA generated $1.12 billion, mostly from media payments from its men's basketball tournament.

  • In 2020, when March Madness was canceled for the first time ever, that number fell to $519 million — even with a $270 million insurance payment offsetting some of the losses.

Between the lines: The strength of the market during the pandemic helped the NCAA avoid a deeper financial hole, with net investment income up nearly $26 million year-over-year.

The big picture: Most of the NCAA's revenue is distributed to its members, so these losses are felt by individual schools and their athletic departments.

  • The NCAA planned to distribute $600 million to its members post-March Madness, but ended up giving out just $225 million when it was canceled.
  • This is why it's crucial that this year's tournament takes place. If it does, the NCAA is set to receive $850 million from its media partners and will distribute $613 million of that to schools.

Go deeper: How NCAA conferences earn money from March Madness (Axios)

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